Air Force To Get Tougher With Recruits




 
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Boots
 
January 29th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Air Force To Get Tougher With Recruits


San Antonio Express-News
January 29, 2008 By Sig Christenson, Express-News
The new sign at Lackland AFB says "obstacle course," and that's precisely what it is a series of roadblocks designed to test strength and endurance.
They used to call it a "confidence course," but the word has fallen by the wayside as the Air Force has undergone something of an attitude change. A service that has long done things differently than its parent, the Army, is reaching back to its World War II roots the days when those in the Army Air Corps went through more rigorous training, anticipating the unexpected.
Starting this fall, basic training will increase from 61/2 to 81/2 weeks, the longest it's been since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Life in the field is going to get harder and dirtier for recruits of what has derisively been called the "chair force." There will be with greater emphasis on basic deployment skills, casualty care and fighting in close quarters.
"It's a little bit late, in my estimation, but it's just teaching the airmen basic soldier skills," said retired Brig. Gen. Richard Coleman, former commander of the Air Force Security Forces Center. "Soldier skills are not exclusively for the Army and Marines. It's for all the people in the military."
The Air Force historically has had big bases in relatively safe parts of the world, its aircrews the principal combatants. But over the past decade or so, it has evolved into a force that operates in faraway locations, its bases more remote, rugged and occasionally targeted for attack.
Before 9-11, there was Khobar Towers, the 1997 terrorist attack on an Air Force base in Saudi Arabia. Gradually, the Air Force has toughened training to adjust to new vulnerabilities.
The "expeditionary" Air Force, as it's now called, thrusts airmen who once thought little about carrying a rifle into the increasingly critical role of warrior. And at Lackland, the Air Force's sole basic training facility, the word is out cultivate a "warrior ethos" among young recruits.
"How do you prepare an airman to get into an austere environment with his gear with his team," asked Col. Robert J. MacDonald, former commander of the 737th Training Group at Lackland, "and do the job that they're called upon to do?"
You make it real, for starters, transmitting the message that basic training and military service is deadly serious business. The Air Force has done that by issuing an M-16 rifle to every fledgling airman on the first day.
It's unable to fire, but boots can clean it, break it down and put it back together. They'll also learn how to use the military's M-9 handgun.
Not that long ago, airmen never saw a handgun and only held a rifle for two days of familiarization and training on a base firing range.
"I'll tell you now, I wasn't comfortable with a weapon. I wasn't comfortable with anything deployment-wise in the old days," said Tech. Sgt. Brian Price, a 17-year Air Force veteran who trained here in 1991. "We were in the back with the gear, and now it's completely different."
'Hoo-rah Air Force'
At odds with the Army from the earliest days of aviation, historians say, the Air Force established its own identity after becoming independent of the Army in 1947. It got a different uniform, switched colors to blue from olive drab and developed a new rank structure for enlistees. Instead of private, the boot just out of basic became "airman."
Historians T.R. Fehrenbach and Tom Manning said Air Force officers also developed a more collegial relationship with enlistees, who tend to score higher on standardized tests and have greater technical skills.
The Air Force also established a community college in the 1970s and encouraged its enlistees to earn degrees. Over time, Army terminology such as "hoo-ahh" gave way to signature Air Force phrases such as the sing-song chant "Air power!" and "Hoo-rah Air Force!"
"That was one of the little things done to distinguish (the Air Force) from the Army and Marines," said Manning, the Air Education and Training Command's chief historian.
"The Air Force has a small core of warriors. These are your fighter pilots, your bomber pilots and the crews," said Fehrenbach, a retired Army colonel and veteran of the Korean War who has written an acclaimed history about the 1950-53 conflict. "The rest of it is pretty much a uniformed airline."
The "confidence course" sign came down last year, but the Air Force cautioned that no one should read anything into the new name for the 17 barriers, which Airman Basic Charles Bassett negotiated last month.
To be sure, the course isn't much different than in the past.
Everybody's still anxious, and there are still a lot of mistakes.
"I didn't say go!" Tech. Sgt. Todd Carrico, 30, of Ann Arbor, Mich., yelled as the sweaty recruits ran in place at one obstacle. "I said just stand there!"
Bassett, 23, of Rochester, Pa., grabbed a rope in hopes of clearing a small pool but blundered. Another airman had just fallen into the water, drawing laughter from a crowd of nearby recruits.
"They told him three times before he jumped for a rope while there was still a trainee in the pool," said the noncommissioned officer in charge of the course, Tech. Sgt. Christian Kick, who stared hard at Bassett while writing him up.
"That's a safety infraction."
Facing the BEAST
Basic military training in the Air Force indoctrinates and educates. The service does it through the eyes and ears of its military training instructors, the stern cadre wearing their distinctive Smokey Bear hats. That won't change when Lackland's longer schedule begins in the first week of November. But training at the old "Scorpion's Nest" on Medina Annex, a 36-hour affair when it began nine years ago, has evolved. "Warrior Week" began soon after, running 51/2 days. Recruits defended a tent base and made a 5.8-mile march.
Things will get more intense this fall, when 600 to 900 recruits a week face the BEAST Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills and Training. It meshes simulated combat with increasingly stressful situations.
"One of the scenarios is aggressors trying to gain access to your base," said Master Sgt. Magdalena Cortez, 38, of Port Clinton, Ohio. "They're only doing that twice, and so throughout the entire week they'll get those scenarios more often."
Coleman, 68, of San Antonio, the former commander of the Air Force Security Forces Center, wanted to see that for years. He trained in an 11-week boot camp in the mid-1950s.
The Air Force said it later wrapped basic and technical training into 11 weeks, but it was cut to eight weeks in 1960.
A tri-annual review of basic training last year by the Air Force's chief master sergeants led to the end of the 61/2-week training period, which had been in place since October 1964. The group compared notes on what recruits learned at Lackland and how they lived in countries ranging from Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey to South Korea, Mongolia and Congo.
Longer training, more time with weapons and more repetition in the field were the results. More time was needed to do the things the Air Force always has done instilling such core values as integrity, discipline and attention to detail into airmen, as well as preparing them for war.
Coleman noted that more Air Force non-aviators than pilots have died since 9-11. Some have served on Iraq convoy escort missions, once an Army job. His old command, Security Forces, doesn't have enough troops, especially in rustic settings at risk of attack by small units and suicide bombers hoping to take out jets, helicopters and personnel.
What's finally happening is an Air Force coming full circle. In World War II, before the service separated from the Army, boot camp included small-arms training and field tactics in its curriculum ensuring that all troops were prepared to fight.
"It's a cultural association," said Coleman, a Vietnam veteran and the service's longest-serving member, with 43 years, four months and two days on duty. "It's establishing an ethos: 'Yeah, we're airmen, but we do military things that protect our military and its resources.'"
January 29th, 2008  
Infern0
 
i've always liked the USMC attitude to this: every marine is a rifleman 1st.


sure not really applicable to the airforce...but maybe worth looking at
February 12th, 2009  
SergeyL
 
I saw the proof of this article this past weekend at Lackland AFB. My son had a much tougher time of it in basic training than his father had back in 1984.
I remember comparing notes with my husband about the differences of my Army basic training and his Air Force basic training. I thought the Air Force had it sooo easy.

Now though, my son did everything we did in basic and actually more. His MTI ground them into... well, the ground. I love it! THIS is the military basic training experience. This is the shared hell that he needed to go through to come out stronger on the other end. The Air Force is going to be putting out a much stronger class of soldier/airmen than ever before.
Go Air Force!
--
Boots
February 12th, 2009  
Chukpike
 
What are the Air Force plans? A reduction of hours they can play video games and use their mp3 players during basic?
February 12th, 2009  
AB_Shorts_Momma
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chukpike
What are the Air Force plans? A reduction of hours they can play video games and use their mp3 players during basic?
Be nice!
February 13th, 2009  
Chukpike
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AB_Shorts_Momma
Be nice!
You're right, but it was just to easy.
February 13th, 2009  
AB_Shorts_Momma
 
 
Yeah, I'm sure it was! LOL
 


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